Scott Lyall
Early Video

25 March to 8 May 2010


For several years, Scott Lyall has worked to situate his practice between the mutually exclusive conventions of graphic imagery and set design. He defines his exhibitions as “scenographies more than sculpture”; a set of plastic supports that frame “an almost clientless sense of design.” Both abstract and intimate, theatrical and genuine, the work is structured by rational processes, but seems free of users’ demands.

His new exhibition records effects from this ellipsis. Its title captures nothing but a generally scripted statement: “…as if on tape: a number of figures pass into the ocean and disappear.” It is not clear if this ‘number’ includes the Mallarméan poet, the documentarian Bas Jan Ader, or any other specific character. (If you called them a priest and a rabbi, they’d be a set up for bad jokes, but Lyall confesses his point of departure was Woody Allen’s somber Interiors.) Further, the mottled grays that come to replace the performing figures are either dimensions of saturation, Duchamp’s gray matter, or Richter’s blinds. And the ‘tape’ proposes the time-image as a gauzy, fixed projection: dramatic action is here subordinated to a compact, graphic time.

So what can anyone say? 1.) A small collection of ‘wall objects’ promotes the idea that we could irradiate—or lightly colorize—graphic time; 2.) The work appears on various picture-making strata as abstract graphemes—those fundamental units of any written or pictured language; and, 3.) The visual experience requires subjective interpolation, but “interpolation as free imagination,” as Walter Benjamin said.

[Scott Lyall’s] strangely lyrical installations are literal reservoirs for cultural narratives that, nonetheless, give over information (give it up, with all the tawdry implications of that phrase), like coy lovers who demand to be courted.

— Johanna Burton, Not a Single Point of View: Contemporary Sculpture in the Spatial Imaginary, in State of the Art: Contemporary Sculpture, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 2009.